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Drinking Water Safety

The City of Milwaukee water utility, Milwaukee Water Works, provides safe, clean drinking water to homes and businesses throughout the greater Milwaukee area. The City of Milwaukee Health Department works with Milwaukee Water Works to monitor and assure drinking water quality and safety for city of Milwaukee residents.

For more information on Milwaukee water treatment and service, visit the Milwaukee Water Works website.

Drinking Water for Sensitive Populations

Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders or suppression (organ transplants, chemotherapy, etc.), should consult with their health care provider about consuming drinking water from a variety of sources including tap water.


Water fluoridation has been accepted as a safe, effective, and inexpensive method of preventing tooth decay. Adding fluoride to municipal drinking water has been endorsed by the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the U.S Public Health Service. Per Milwaukee Common Council File No. 120187 adopted on July 24, 2012, we are required to provide an advisory regarding fluoride and young infants.

Water from Milwaukee Water Works is formulated not to exceed a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L. In infants less than 6 months of age the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that parents may consider using water from a source known to be less than 0.7 mg/L at least part of the time when reconstituting baby formula. This suggestion is made due to the possible increased chance of developing a “very mild to mild” case of dental fluorosis, or white spots appearing on the teeth.

Get more information on fluoridation in general and fluoride ingestion by infants less than 6 months old.

Lead Awareness

Lead is not found in Milwaukee’s public water system. However, lead can enter water as the result of the wearing away of materials containing lead in building fixtures, internal plumbing, or in the service line that brings water to your home. When water stands for several hours or more in fixtures or pipes that contain lead, the lead may leach into the water. It is also possible that physical disturbance of the piping may release lead into the water. 

Since 1996, Milwaukee Water Works has safely treated its water ortho-phosphate to reduce the risk of lead leaching from plumbing materials into water. This compound forms a protective coating inside pipes and is considered to be the best practice for the control of lead in drinking water. However, some homes are more at risk for lead in drinking water due to characteristics of the plumbing at the individual residence.

Which homes are most at risk of having lead in drinking water?

While lead is not found in Milwaukee's treated water, lead may dissolve from the service line that brings water to your home or plumbing inside your home. To find out if your home has a lead service line, click here to search for your address or call the Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service line at (414) 286-2830.

Health Effects of Lead

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have determined that lead can pose a significant risk to your health.

The primary source of lead exposure in the Milwaukee community is lead-based paint hazards found in homes. Learn more about the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s work to prevent childhood lead poisoning from lead-based paint hazards.

The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Studies have linked the effects of lead on the brain to lowered IQ and impaired school performance in children, increased behavior problems and juvenile delinquency, and increased childhood health problems such as speech and language delays, hearing problems, kidney damage, and more. Effects of lead poisoning can be life-long.

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms. The City of Milwaukee Health Department advises parents and health care providers to follow the “3 before 3” guidance, testing all Milwaukee children for elevated blood lead levels three times before the age of 3. Children under the age of 6 should be tested if they have no history of a blood lead test or are at higher risk for exposure. (See Lead Testing Recommendations) (See Guidelines for Clinicians)

Families who may live in a high-risk home for lead in drinking water, are advised to follow the steps below to reduce risk of exposure.

Steps to Reduce the Risk of Lead in Your Drinking Water

There are several easy things you can do to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. These actions are particularly important if women who may become pregnant, are pregnant, or breastfeeding women, or children under the age of 6, especially bottle-fed infants, live in your home.  

  1. Use a filter certified to remove lead from drinking water. This is especially important when preparing baby formula. Home filtration systems can reduce or eliminate lead. Be sure to look for products certified by NSF/ANSI under Standard 53 for the removal of lead and follow all manufacturer’s instructions on installation and maintenance. Find recommendations about drinking water filters here, or or download the list here.

    For information on the City of Milwaukee Drinking Water Filter Program, click here.

  2. Run your water. Before using tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your plumbing by running the kitchen faucet (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on cold for a minimum of three minutes (or longer if necessary) until the water is noticeably colder. This is especially important if your water has been sitting in your pipes for more than six hours. To conserve water, you can use this excess for watering household plants or outdoor plants. Showering, doing laundry and flushing the toilet all help clear water from the pipes. Bathing, showering, and doing laundry in water from lead services lines or lead plumbing is safe.

  3. Drink and cook with water from the cold water tap. Water from the hot water tap can dissolve more lead quicker than cold water. Boiling water will not reduce the amount of lead in your drinking or cooking water. You can also consider purchasing bottled water from a known lead-free source for drinking and cooking. You may also want to consider filling a clean container(s) with water from the flushed tap, and reserving this water for drinking, cooking, or other consumption.

  4. Inspect your faucet aerator. The aerator on the end of your faucet is a screen that can catch debris, including particles of lead. It is recommended to periodically remove the aerator and rinse out any debris.

  5. Replace your lead service line or interior plumbing. A licensed plumber will be able to determine if your home’s interior plumbing and fixtures and/or service line are made of lead. Replacement must be done by a licensed plumber under contract from the homeowner.

In addition, any households with residents or frequent visitors that include children under the age of 6, pregnant and breastfeeding women should also:

  • Only use cold, filtered tap water (use an NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certified water filtration device) or bottled water from a known lead-free source to make formula, concentrated juices, and for cooking and drinking. If using water directly from the faucet, use only cold water that has been well-flushed for a minimum of three minutes.

  • Have their blood lead level tested. If you are pregnant or have a child under the age of 6, ask your health care provider about lead testing. The City of Milwaukee Health Department advises parents and health care providers to follow the “3 before 3” guidance by testing all children for elevated blood lead levels three times before the age of 3. Children under the age of 6 should be tested if they have no history of a blood lead test or are at higher risk for exposure. (See Lead Testing Recommendations) (See Guidelines for Clinicians)

Additional Information on Drinking Water Safety and Lead

Additional information can be found: